What is weak coffee and how do you fix it?

Tell your book besties!

Imagine rushing into your favorite coffee house and demanding: “Give me your weakest, most watery coffee ever served.”

You can’t even imagine that, can you? Well, it’s because nobody likes to drink a weak coffee.

But what factors determine the coffee weakness? Are there people who even love the taste of weak coffee? Let’s find out together in this article.

Coffee in glasses. Espresso on a dark background. Dark style

How does coffee strength work?

The best possible answer is – it depends. Science has no strict answer, as the cult of coffee drinkers is above science. Most of the bean heads consider that the strong coffee must have one or all of the characteristics listed below:

  • it must have a high amount of caffeine (understandable)
  • must be darker and bolder (hard to explain)
  • should have a mouthful, intensive taste (completely subjective)
  • should kickstart you in the morning (relatable)

Great, but that’s not the way the coffee works. A good cup of coffee is more than a percentage of coffee beans in hot (or cold) water. If it were that easy, we would be walking around chewing coffee beans in our mouth and called it a good, strong coffee. So, let’s break down the terms.

Does coffee strength mean more caffeine?

You can triple the dose of coffee grounds and add them to the same portion of water. Your coffee will have a triple amount of caffeine and will taste like burned tires, charcoal, and death. 

Let’s not do that. If you crave more caffeine, there are coffee brands specialized in just that. Yes, you can buy a coffee with double or triple more caffeine than the usual one. 

Strong coffee is darker and bolder

The darkness of the coffee is usually connected with the French press coffee or the Turkish way of preparing. Both brewing methods don’t use coffee filters, so all the essential coffee oils are inside your dark cup of joe. 

And let’s not forget marketing. As dark roast is much easier to produce and sell, a lot of coffee companies ride that horse. Hence, they will try to convince you the dark cup of coffee is tasty, manly, and something you could use to rule the world. The truth is, dark roasts do taste different than medium and light ones, but there is nothing “strong” in them.


Strong coffee has a mouthful, intensive taste

Years of watching old westerns have officially altered our perception of what a strong coffee is. If your face twitches after the first sip of “strong” coffee, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. It usually means you over-extracted your beans or that you added too much coffee to your hot water. If you want a mouthful taste, order an espresso. If the espresso is too much for you, we recommend Americano.

Strong coffee should kickstart me in the morning

This problem has a simple solution, and it’s called espresso. While a cup of cold brew or drip coffee has more caffeine, it’s about the size of the cup. Espresso is served in one-ounce cups or shots, so the caffeine will enter your nervous system much quicker. Also, the spike will not last long, so for a longer caffeine high, take a cup of cold brew or a drip coffee. 

So what does weak coffee mean?

Also, the term weak coffee can mean a lot of things, especially if you are new in the coffee world. Weak coffee can be any coffee that is:

  • less caffeinated
  • less bitter
  • a light roast
  • has a watery taste

But, let’s leave the subjectivity to the others. Some people consider espresso weak, while to others, a Mocha latte is too strong. Weak coffee is something you should never drink. It’s an error in the universe of beans To clarify it, it’s a coffee that went wrong. The beans didn’t extract in the water, and you got some watery fluid that resembles tea, more than coffee. Numerous reasons can lead to weak coffee, and we are going to name them, explain them, and help you to never make a weak coffee in your life.

variety of coffee beans on burlap

Why is my coffee so weak?

Judging by our experience, and a lot of cups of weak coffee from some gas stations and amateurish kitchens, we made up a list of the most common reasons for weak coffee:

Your coffee beans are not fresh

Of course, we don’t expect you to ship to South America, pick the beans yourself, and make a cup of coffee on the spot. But, like any other organic material, coffee beans can go stale. Especially if they are not stored properly. Your coffee beans should always be in an airtight container and kept in a cold place. This way, you will prolong the lifetime of your beans. Also, always check the packaging date of your beans, and always opt for a fresher batch. Avoid using glass jars for storing your beans. Although they look neat, light is the enemy of your coffee, along with the air, moisture, and heat. Instead, invest in a nice stainless steel container.

Wrong water temperature equals weak coffee

A French press uses cold water, not fridge-cold, but a room temperature one. The scientific definitions of room temperature vary, but the rule of thumb is cca 77F. As for the other ways of making coffee, the usual one is in a range between 190 and 205 F. 

Too cold water will give you an under-extracted, weak coffee. On the other hand, too hot water will over-extract your beans and leave you with a bitter, acidic cup of joe. If you have an espresso machine or a kettle with an inbuilt thermometer, you have nothing to worry about. Otherwise, invest in a small thermometer.

You are using the wrong ratio

Every coffee brewing method has its perfect ratio of coffee grounds to water. By adding too much water, you will water down the taste. So:

  • Don’t use too much water
  • Don’t use fewer coffee grounds 

Simple as that. Your automated machines will probably have a built-in option, so you don’t have to worry. But, what if you use the required ratio and still get a weak coffee? Maybe your palate just enjoys a much stronger taste. Experiment a bit by gradually adding more coffee ground (or less water) and find that perfect ratio that fits you.

You rushed the brew

Normally, we are all anxiously waiting for that first cup of coffee in the morning and want to be over immediately. But coffee making is a process, and it takes some time. Our friends from the National Coffee Association (NCA) have provided us with a handy chart:

  • drip coffee maker needs cca 5 minutes of the brewing
  • A French press uses around 4 minutes
  • For a perfect espresso, you need approximately 25 seconds
  • Cold-brew needs at least 12 hours

Of course, all these rules are not written in stone, but they are something to look to. If you speed up a brewing process a bit, you will get under-extracted, also known as weak coffee. By prolonging the process, you will only get an over-extracted drink.

coffee beans, ground coffee and instant coffee in three bowls

You used the wrong grind size

This is one of the most common reasons for weak coffee, especially if you buy pre-ground coffee. Not every grind size will be suitable for every brewing method. Here are some general rules for your preferred brewing method:

  • An extra coarse grind is used for cold brew coffee and cowboy coffee
  • A coarse grind is perfect for percolators and French press
  • Use medium-coarse grind for Chemex, clever dripper, or a cafe solo brewer
  • Medium grind goes well in Aeropress, siphon brewers, flat-bottomed drip coffee makers, and cone-shaped pour-over coffee makers
  • A medium-fine grind is best for cone-shaped pour-over machines and Aeropress
  • Fine grind is used only for your finest espresso machine
  • Extra fine grind is made only for a Turkish coffee

Using a coarser grind than you should, you will only get a weak coffee, and possibly, your coffee maker malfunction. On the other hand, by using a finer grind than recommended, you will only over-extract your beans.

You are using a lighter roast

Light coffee roasts taste nothing like darker ones. Light roasts have light, fruity notes with floral nuances and gentle flavor. However, some people don’t like the taste and prefer a bolder, heavier taste. For them, the best choice is to use some of the fine dark or extra dark roasts, with a mouthful taste of chocolate, smoke, and nuts.

tired coffee drinker weak bean water

How do you fix weak coffee?

So, you brewed your pot of coffee with your favorite drip coffee maker. But you missed something, things went wrong, and you ended with a pot of weak coffee. And the guests are already at the door. Oh, the shame. We gathered our most favorite trick that will help you save your weak coffee, along with your coffee maker reputation. Here is what you should do:

Re-brew your weak coffee

Simply redo all your coffee-making process. But use your weak coffee as a base. Rebrewing your weak coffee will help extract every single grain of flavor that was left the first time.

Add a pinch of instant coffee

Tough times require tough measures.  Add a small dose of instant coffee powder to your weak coffee. If you are using the same brand, even better! 

Enhance the flavor of your weak coffee

Declare it a coffee-mixing night. Put your finest creamers, sweeteners, and coffee spice collection on the tray, and let the games begin! If your guests like spiked coffee, offer them your collection of liqueurs, too. Nothing saves a weak coffee like a generous dose of Kahlua, topped with whipped cream.

Make ice-cubes of your weak coffee

Fill your ice-cube molds with a batch of your weak coffee. Later, you can use the coffee cubes for icecreams, slushies, frappes, and smoothies. Or use them for making a delicious iced coffee. 

Weak coffee makes a great cooking helper

You can use your weak coffee batch as one of the ingredients for a meat marinade, coffee cakes, Mexican salad dressing, and much, much more. 

Water your plants with a weak coffee

Your garden plants will appreciate your weak coffee every now and then. As coffee contains nitrogen, magnesium, and potassium, your flowers or vegetables will love a weak cup of joe. Just check do your plants love acidic grounds, as coffee will add to the acidity of the soil, even if it’s a weak coffee.

Different names for a weak coffee

Hating a weak coffee goes much higher than the country borders. So, let’s see the most usual expressions for weak coffee around the world.

  • Texas – Cricket pee – no explanation needed
  • Netherland – slootwater – water from the drainage
  • Greece – κατρουλιό – pee-like
  • Brasil – chafe – cha(tea) & cafe (coffee), agua de batata – potato water
  • Finland – litku – trickly
  • Palestinian – ahwe khafiife – light coffee
  • Spanish – aguachirle –  bland water
  • German – Spülwasser – dishwater.

We could continue like this the whole day. But the general impression is weak coffee is hated around the world.

Weak coffee FAQ

What is the richest coffee?

As the coffee taste and preferences are subjective, that question can’t be answered. Instead, here’s a list of the most expensive coffee beans in the world.

For comparison, Starbucks ’ usual coffee beans cost around $17 per pound.

  1. Black Ivory Coffee – More than $500/pound
  2. Finca El Injerto Coffee – $500/pound
  3. Hacienda La Esmeralda– More than $500/pound
  4. Kopi Luwak – $160/pound
  5. Saint Helena Coffee – $79/pound
  6. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee – More than $50/pound
  7. Fazenda Santa Ines – $50/pound
  8. Starbucks Quadriginoctuple Frap – $47.30/cup
  9. Los Planes Coffee – $40/pound
  10. Hawaiian Kona Coffee – $34/pound

To make it more understandable, a cup of Black Ivory Coffee will cost you around $50 if you make it yourself. The hardest part: you might not like it. As the coffee’s rich taste is strictly a matter of personal preferences, your favorite coffee brand might have a richer taste than any of these coffee beans listed.

Fun fact – The Black Ivory Coffee is digested by elephants. It’s part of the process and one of the reasons why it’s so expensive.

What is the weakest coffee?

The weakest coffee is the one you brewed wrong. But let’s not call it a coffee anymore. We’ll call it a mistake. As for the percentage of caffeine inside your cup, the weakest coffee is decaf. Decaf or decaffeinated coffee has the smallest percentage of caffeine inside, although you can’t completely remove the caffeine from the beans. The second place would go to the majority of instant coffees, as they can sometimes be more sugar than coffee. 

And now, a surprise. After these two, espresso is actually the weakest coffee, as it’s a small volumed drink. A solo shot of espresso will give you around 75 mg of caffeine. Latte and cappuccino will provide you as much caffeine as you put espressos inside. Mocha will have slightly more caffeine, as the chocolate also contains it. 

How do I make my coffee stronger but not bitter?

If you listened to all our advice above, and you feel your coffee is still weak, here are some things you should do:

  • Try aged coffee – a special way of processing coffee
  • Keep your equipment clean – any leftover coffee oils will cause your next cup of coffee to be bitter
  • Try a coffee brand that contains more Robusta beans. Robusta has 2x more caffeine than Arabica, but Arabica is much tastier.

And here’s how to save your bitter coffee:

  • add a pinch of table salt to your cup of coffee
  • add milk or creamer
  • fight bitter with sweet – add more sugar or creamer

Does milk make coffee less strong?

Adding milk to your coffee doesn’t make your coffee disappear. It just adds more volume to it. So, if you add milk to your espresso, it still has the same amount of caffeine inside. However, adding milk significantly changes the taste of the coffee, and that’s the usual reason why people do it. 

Can you make coffee with coffee instead of water?

Of course, if you hate your coffee maker and your taste buds. While rebrewing weak coffee is an option you can use with your drip coffee maker, under no circumstances should you brew coffee with coffee. The result will be over bittered, smelly fluid. That is if your coffee machine doesn’t break, as they are designed to work with clean, filtered water, not with coffee.

What is the strongest coffee in the world?

To clarify, we are looking for the coffee with the most caffeine inside, that’s still drinkable. No experiments or cold brews mixed with energy drinks. And the winner is:

Devil Mountain Coffee Black Label. This lovely brand of coffee will proudly emphasize they have 1555 mg of caffeine per 12oz cup. The nearest competitor, Very Strong Coffee, has “only” 1350 mg per 12oz cup and can be considered as “weak coffee” for Devil Mountain lovers. The world’s famous Death Wish Coffee isn’t even in the first five on the list.

For the record, the FDA recommends limiting your daily caffeine intake to 400 mg per day.


The weak coffee isn’t just an expression for a lighter coffee or a drink with more milk than coffee. Weak coffee is an error in the coffee-making process. In this article, we broke a myth or two, showed you how to make good coffee, and how to save a weak one. And, if you try  Devil Mountain Coffee Black Label, let us know if it gave you any superpowers.

Tell your book besties!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *